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Council members look to re-route money from libraries to address drainage issues

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UPDATE: The vote fell short of passage during Wednesday's metro council meeting. Read the update here: https://www.wbrz.com/news/metro-council-won-t-approve-proposal-to-re-route-money-from-libraries-to-drainage-144613

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BATON ROUGE – Some EBR metro council members are looking to create more funding for drainage improvements two months after the flood in May. That would mean re-routing money away from other departments, mainly the libraries.

Council member Dwight Hudson is the co-sponsor behind a push to re-dedicate an existing property tax that will be taken up at Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting.

“We’re looking to have a significant increase in drainage maintenance funding in East Baton Rouge Parish. It would call for the re-dedication for 1-mill from the East Baton Rouge Parish library system, and .25-mills from the Mosquito Abatement Rodent Control District,” said Hudson.

Hudson said he chose these two agencies because both budgets are currently in good shape.

“When we were going through our dedicated taxes we tried to look for entities that were parish-wide, but also entities that had access funding, and could afford to take some reduction,” said Hudson.

Those on the Library Board of Control, though, feel this isn’t a good reason to target the department.

“This burden should have been shared with multiple taxing entities instead of picking on two entities to pull money from,” said Library Board President Jason Jacob.

The re-dedication would reduce the libraries budget 10 percent each year.

“We're looking at $48 million over 10 years, that's a lot of money," said Jacob. “We’d face program cuts and personnel being laid off. That's all distinct possibilities that is going to happen because of this.”

Jacob says they were first aware of the proposal a couple of weeks ago, and on Wednesday night he’s going to ask the metro council to hold off on a vote and take time in looking at all of the options.

If it is approved, the drainage department could receive an extra $5 million each year. The tax would extend into 2031.

“Right now we have a total of $8.8 million for maintenance for an entire parish which is woefully underfunded,” said Hudson. “We have a 3 year backlog of Department of Public Works drainage tickets and so residents are fed up."

Many residents throughout the parish have been dealing with flooding for the first time like Amanda Harris, who moved into her home near Jefferson 22 years ago. She and her family flooded in May.

“We still don’t have a kitchen. We’re just now getting walls back up,” said Harris.”I hope no one ever has to go through this.”

The Harris’ are able to live in their home but the flooring and walls are unfinished. Harris would like to see something done to prevent these types of tragedies again.

“My vote would be to fix the drainage problems and reconfigure what could have possibly gone wrong. Our libraries are probably not as utilized as people’s homes. Having a place to live versus visiting a library I don’t think deserves an explanation," said Harris.

WBRZ asked the metro council members on which way they are leaning toward with the tax re-dedication. Six members including Lamont Cole (co-sponsor), Dwight Hudson (co-sponsor), Brandon Noel, Aaron Moak, Laurie Adams and Cleve Dunn are leaning towards approval.

Denise Amoroso, Chauna Banks and Jennifer Racca are on the fence. Carloyn Coleman and Erika Green did not get back to WBRZ and Rowdy Gaudet was not available to share his position.

Metro council will likely vote on the issue Wednesday night. If approved, the proposal would go to voters on November 13.

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